U.S. leads in freeing spectrum for mobile broadband

The FCC gave itself a pat on the back via a new white paper showing the agency has put the United States ahead of eight other developed nations when it comes to freeing spectrum for licensed mobile broadband. In addition, U.S. efforts to unleash unlicensed spectrum for mobile broadband far outpace those of the European Union.

The United States currently has 608 MHz of licensed spectrum available for mobile broadband and an additional 55 MHz in the pipeline for a total of 663 MHz. The spectrum in the pipeline includes at least 15 MHz in the federal 1700/1800 band, 10 MHz in the 1900 MHz PCS band and 30 MHz in the 2.1 GHz AWS band.

The FCC defined pipeline spectrum as "encumbered spectrum where providers lack the authority to clear the spectrum but the relevant government has plans to make the spectrum available for commercial services, through clearing or sharing, within the next three years."

Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum Available for Mobile Broadband (Mhz)

Licensed and Unlicensed Spectrum

Only Australia has more total mobile broadband spectrum on deck than the United States, with a total of 708 MHz expected to be available once 230 MHz in Australia's spectrum pipeline is added to the 478 MHz that is currently available in that country.

However, U.S. efforts to free spectrum could yet put the nation ahead of Australia in total available spectrum for mobile broadband, given that the 55 MHz in the U.S. pipeline does not include spectrum that will be made available via the planned auctions of 600 MHz TV broadcast spectrum or the repurposing and sharing of federal spectrum. "Because of the difficulty of predicting the precise amount of spectrum that will be made available through each of these efforts, we have chosen not to include a specific estimate for this spectrum," said the FCC.

Of the 10 countries studied, Germany currently has the most spectrum available--at 615 MHz--but has zero in the pipeline. However, the FCC said the 1780-1785 MHz and 1875-1880 MHz bands may potentially become available in Germany in the future.

The other nations addressed by the report include Brazil, China, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The FCC noted it restricted analysis of licensed spectrum availability to that falling below 2.7 GHz, "because these are the frequency bands that, at present, are primarily used for the provision of mobile broadband services around the world."

Regarding unlicensed spectrum, the United States has between 724.5 and 874.5 MHz currently available for mobile broadband based on regional variances in TV white-space spectrum availability. Further, the nation has at least 295 MHz of unlicensed frequencies in the pipeline. Europe, on the other hand, has 665.5 MHz of unlicensed spectrum available and zero in its pipeline.

The FCC said it selected nations for this initial analysis based in part on data availability. Future updates of this white paper may also include countries such as Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Singapore and India, said the commission.

For more:
- see this FCC document (PDF)
- see this Telecompetitor article

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